Released: 18th September 2000
Writers: Billie Piper / Eliot Kennedy / Tim Woodcock
Peak position: #4
Chart run: 4-12-22-35-47-48-63-62-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-67
Context isn’t always necessary to enjoy a pop song. But when it starts by declaring: “Shh! C’mon c’mon, remix!” without any reference point whatsoever (a remix of what, exactly?), exposition is required.
For Something Deep Inside to make sense, we need to go back to July 2000, when Billie Piper’s second album Walk Of Life was released in Japan three months ahead of the UK. This was not unusual for Innocent Records, who adopted a similar strategy with Atomic Kitten’s debut around the same time. It granted them an opportunity to test the material and make tweaks where necessary ahead of a wider release. Without the threat of digital music piracy hanging over it, the material remained confined mainly to the region; thus, few Billie Piper fans in the UK would even have known that Walk Of Life was already available, much less been able to get their hands on it.
As a result, several changes were made to the album. Makin’ My Way (which is great, if you haven’t heard it)and First Love were replaced by Bring It On and What Game Is This?, while the title track and Something Deep Inside were remixed. Those new versions replaced the originals on every subsequent edition of the album, which in itself was not unheard of. But what has always been curious about Something Deep Inside is that there was never any attempt to show the history of the track. For all intents and purposes, it was erased from existence outside of Japan altogether. So, despite the single being issued on two CDs (and cassette, of course), the original wasn’t anywhere to be seen. And, just to make the situation more puzzling, several remixes commissioned for the release were even based on that version.
You’d think – after all of that – the original must have been awful to go to such lengths to conceal it from the public. But it’s really not that bad at all. However, the radio mix makes perfect sense in terms of what it was trying to achieve. Billie Piper and her team were riding a renewed wave of optimism in the aftermath of Day & Night, which fired a clear warning shot that she could compete with Britney Spears. Alas, it was the only track on Walk Of Life to feature Stargate – who’d provided additional production – and thus, the album didn’t have an obvious second single to maintain the same sound. So that, fundamentally, is what Something Deep Inside was trying to achieve. And it doesn’t make a bad job of it, either.
The track could scarcely be a more textbook example of the pop princess demographic in 2000. The pseudo-R&B beat is buoyed by a plethora of blips and bleeps sprinkled generously throughout. There are also moments where the tempo pauses, and a phoned-in effect is applied to the vocals: “The third time was just as sweet, boy you make my life complete…”, before winding up to kick back in again: “…every thought and motion”. The middle-eight: “So if you follow emotion, the love and devotion you’ll find” even leads into the obligatory dance break chorus with stripped-back production. Something Deep Inside throws up few surprises, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.
Although the track intentionally aimed Billie Piper towards the older end of the teen demographic, it still possesses hallmarks of her earlier material. The pre-chorus: “And unknown to me (unknown to me), this chemistry, is something deep inside” has a great hook, while the song doesn’t shy away from some faintly quirky lyrics (“I can feel but I can’t touch, can never get too much”). Even the title taken out of context – where it very clearly refers to Billie Piper being in love – was surely written as a not-so-subtle double entendre intended to illicit sniggers from people who should probably know better.
So, how does it all compare to the original version? Well, that probably depends on how much appeal Billie Piper holds as a singer beneath the pop star veneer. There are some structural changes; the middle-eight contained a spoken section: “You do the things that make me feel this way, it’s so hard to find the right things to say”, which was cut and the: “Oh. Oh! Oh-oh-OH-oh” hook is also far more prominent. However, the most notable difference is that before the production was beefed up, Something Deep Inside showcased a softer, less synthesized performance from Billie Piper. There was more room to explore in and around the melody, while the ad-libs during the final choruses (“Can to-o-ouch…too mu-u-uch”) really capture the rich quality of her tone. It was a bit of a catch-22 because something needed to be done to the track as a follow-up to Day & Night. However, it’s only when comparing the radio mix to the original that it becomes apparent just how much of a remix this is. Something Deep Inside was composed as an entirely different prospect altogether. And although both are enjoyable efforts in their own way, for everything the radio mix added, it took away in equal measure.
Given the intent of the single, the accompanying music video again borrows heavily from the conventions of the teen pop genre, as we find Billie Piper in a plush, futuristic apartment that is completely impractical as an abode. There are hi-tech panels on the wall, one of which operates a state-of-the-art video doorbell while another seems to make the furniture slide around and disappear at random. This was convenient in as much as it provides ample space for Billie Piper and her troupe of dancers to deliver their choreography. At one point, foliage appears in a room and is so dense, it seems she’s writhing her way through a jungle (just imagine the damp). Even the indoor water feature – either a remarkably clean pond or a very shallow swimming pool – has square platforms that only appear as they are stepped on, which seems like more of a hazard than anything else. If you hired this as an Airbnb, you’d want a refund. But it all makes sense and seems entirely logical for the purpose of a music video that looks super-expensive and is trying to reinforce Billie Piper’s image as cooler and more mature. Just to remove any doubt, there’s some obligatory titillation as she’s shown topless – albeit lying prone on a bed – at the start for absolutely no reason other than to remind everyone that she was old enough to take her clothes off now. Because that, apparently, is what would sway people, rather than just having confidence in the music.
The bar for success had always been set remarkably – if not impossibly – high for Billie Piper, to the extent where anything less than #1 was deemed by her label to be nothing short of a disaster. Thus, although objectively speaking, the #4 peak of Something Deep Inside was hardly that bad, there’s little doubt that it would have caused consternation. That was still enough to keep her comfortably apace with her immediate rivals, but it seemed nothing less than being the leader of the pack would suffice. Therefore, now was not the time for Billie Piper to score her lowest charting hit, even if it was her sixth consecutive top-five single. More concerning was the performance of Walk Of Life. The album was released several weeks later and matched the #14 peak of her debut, but while Honey To The Bee racked up an impressive 23 weeks in the top 75, the follow-up managed just four.
Evidently, there was some work to do. However, behind the scenes, Billie Piper was not in a good place. Her relationship with Ritchie Neville continued to draw torrents of abuse from jealous fans, while a fixation on her weight had developed into an addiction to laxatives and sleeping tablets. The unrelenting pressure on Billie Piper’s pop career had been there from the start, but now trapped in the middle of it was a young woman – still a teenager – who was spiralling. Perhaps, then, it’s almost a blessing Something Deep Inside didn’t reach #1, though it might not have seemed so at the time. A chart-topping single may only have reinforced to Billie Piper that anorexia is what she needed to put herself through to be a success. Instead, what this started to give her was the faintest glimmer of a way out.
In that respect, it feels almost perverse to glean any enjoyment from Something Deep Inside, knowing how much of the album campaign came at such personal cost. But if an ounce of what Billie Piper endured could be salvaged as a positive, then this is a great track. Indeed, somewhere between the radio mix and the original version – both of which have their merits – there may just lie one of the best songs she ever recorded.